When Cassie Murray decided to stop eating meat while still in high school, her parents were concerned she wouldn't get the nutrition she needed. "They were worried because they thought I would hurt my health," recalled Murray, who will be a senior at Ohio State University in the fall.

When Cassie Murray decided to stop eating meat while still in high school, her parents were concerned she wouldn't get the nutrition she needed. "They were worried because they thought I would hurt my health," recalled Murray, who will be a senior at Ohio State University in the fall. Her parents didn't really understand the nutritional demands of a vegetarian diet but neither did she, Murray admitted. A vegetarian avoids beef, pork, poultry and fish but does eat eggs and dairy. A vegan does not eat meat, dairy or eggs. It took the now 21-year-old from Toronto, Ohio, some time to figure out what she needed to add to her diet to replace meat. "I was eating pretty unhealthy in high school," she said. Often people interested in eating vegetarian replace meat with carbohydrates, which is not a proper substitute, said Murray, who serves as president of The Vegetarian Club at OSU. Today she takes supplemental vitamins and eats plenty of tofu, nuts and meatless foods made for vegetarians. "It's all about replacing. You need to replace (meat)," she said. "I feel my diet is so much more balanced now." Establishing a healthy diet is crucial to anyone who opts to stop eating meat, added Dr. Robert Murray, a professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and a board member with the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He and Cassie Murray are not related. He urges parents to take a child's decision to become a vegetarian seriously. "Parents should educate themselves, then talk about it with their kids," he said. Dr. Murray also counsels parents that many children experiment with vegetarianism but very few commit to it. Children who stop eating meat need to take supplements that include iron, folic acid, vitamin B-12, calcium and vitamin D. They also need to find "quality protein sources," he said. It's also important to ask children why they want to change the way they eat. If parents find out that the child views vegetarianism as a way to lose weight, they need to discuss other options, Dr. Murray said. Children need to be taught that exercise and nutrition impact weight loss - not dieting, he said. If a child seems committed to a vegetarian diet, he recommends enlisting the help of a dietician. When done properly, a vegetarian diet is healthy, he said. "What you want is a really educated kid," he said. "Parents need to encourage them to do it well."